Is It Worth Renting a Car in Jamaica (and What About Safety and Rules)?

Many tourists play it safe when they visit Jamaica, choosing to retreat to an all-inclusive resort. And that’s perfectly fine. However, if you are more adventurous and want to get out and about on the island, then renting a car and driving yourself is the best way to go.
Is It Worth Renting a Car in Jamaica
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With its diverse landscapes, Jamaica is an ideal choice for a beautiful Caribbean road trip. One of the biggest countries in the tropics boasting magnificent mountains and pristine coastlines, Jamaica is best explored by hitting the open road.

But how should you prepare for your Jamaican holiday if you’re planning to use a rental car? From international driving requirements to navigating the island’s country roads and highways, read on for the essential guide to driving in Jamaica.

Do You Need a Car in Jamaica?

If you plan to do a lot of independent sightseeing, then yes, you do need a car. Jamaica is so big that a vehicle would be necessary for visitors who want the freedom to get off the beaten tourist path.

Moreover, public transportation in Jamaica is not reliable and therefore not recommended.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car for a Week in Jamaica?

On average a rental car in Jamaica costs US $291 per week.

Of course, car rental rates in Jamaica vary from one company to the next. Fortunately, many car rental companies are online, which means that you can do some price comparisons and find good bargains before booking your trip.

As a rule, car rental security deposits tend to be high in Jamaica partly due to the road and traffic conditions, as well as crime rates. Before you rent, be sure to request for a solid quote and fully understand your insurance options.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car in Montego Bay?

On average a rental car in Montego Bay costs US $18 per day.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car in Kingston?

On average a rental car in Kingston costs US $29 per day.

Is It Safe to Rent a Car in Jamaica?

Yes, as long as you only do business with reputable car rental companies. Besides the major international car rental franchises such as Avis, Hertz and Europcar, there are several reliable local operations including Island Car Rentals.

Is Driving in Jamaica Safe for Tourists?

Yes, it is safe for tourists to drive themselves around Jamaica. Most likely you will be driving along the coastal roads which are perfectly safe. As long as you stay on the highway and main roads you should be fine.

Is It Safe to Drive From Kingston to Montego Bay?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to drive from Kingston to Montego Bay. Just be sure to stick to the main road and you should be fine. Outside of this you may experience road conditions that are challenging for someone unfamiliar with the area and style of driving.

Is It Safe to Drive From Montego Bay to Negril?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to drive from Montego Bay to Negril, as long as you stick to the highway. Some stretches of the road along this route can be hazardous and a challenge for those who have never experienced driving in Jamaica before.

Is It Easy or Hard to Drive in Jamaica?

Driving in Jamaica may not be like you’re used to.

Although the road network is good and connects most of the major cities on the island, roads in Jamaica vary greatly in terms of surface and condition. While some highways are up to international standards, many Jamaican roads lack signage, are poorly maintained and poorly lit at night. Back-country roads are typically narrow, winding and deteriorate in rainy weather.

Moreover, you need to keep a constant eye out for pedestrians, cyclists and animals, as well as local drivers who are not strict observers of traffic rules. Caution is required while driving in Jamaica as accidents are commonplace. Exercise more caution than usual, especially at night. Avoid driving at night where possible.

Is It Illegal to Drive without Insurance in Jamaica (and what is the Fine)?

Yes, it is illegal to drive without insurance in Jamaica. Insurance is mandatory for driving in Jamaica and specifically, third party fire and theft insurance cover is required. There is a fine of US $145 for driving in Jamaica without the required motor vehicle insurance coverage.

Before you leave for Jamaica, check to confirm that your rental car is covered by your car insurance. If not, it is recommended that you purchase insurance for the possibility of inclement weather. Solid rental insurance will prevent your vacation from turning into an expensive nightmare.

Do you need an international driver’s license in Jamaica?

No, you do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Jamaica. All you need is a valid domestic driver’s license, which will enable you to rent a car for a period of up to 3 months. Domestic driver’s licenses are acceptable so long as they are printed in English.

Can You Drive With a US or UK License?

Yes, you can drive in Jamaica using a US or UK driver’s license.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Car in Jamaica?

The minimum age for renting a car in Jamaica is 21. There are some car hire companies that charge extra for drivers under the age of 25. In addition, you will need to have held your license for a minimum of 2 years.

Do You Need a Car Seat in Jamaica?

Yes. All passengers under the age of 3 are required to be placed inside a car seat.

If the car seat is positioned on the front seat of the car, it must be facing backwards and the airbag must be deactivated. Children between ages 3 and 12 are not allowed to sit on the front seat of the car. They must sit at the back and use an appropriate restraint system for their age and height.

Should I Bring My Own Car Seat?

No, you don’t need to bring your own car seat to Jamaica as it is possible to rent a car that comes with a car seat. That said, many travelers prefer to take their own car seat just in case they are dissatisfied with the quality available at their destination.

What Side of the Road Do Jamaicans Drive on?

In Jamaica, drivers are required to drive on the left side of the road; unless you are about to overtake or turn right. For many drivers, this will take some getting used to. It is therefore wise to be cautious during your initial forays into Jamaican traffic.

What is the First Rule of the Road in Jamaica?

Do not exceed the speed limit.

Never exceed the speed limit in Jamaica as you may be subjected to a fine. There is an increased fine if you speed within a school zone. Under Jamaican law, it is legal to have speed detection devices in vehicles.

What are the other important Road Rules in Jamaica?

  • Seat Belts: All passengers inside the car must wear seat belts at all times.
  • Cell Phones: Using cell phones is not allowed while driving in Jamaica. Hands-free devices are permitted.
  • Alcohol/ Drug Use: In Jamaica, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is 35 mg per 100 ml of blood. Due to this low BAC limit (half the BAC limit of the US and UK), even one drink in Jamaica is likely to take you over the legal limit.
  • Fines: If you break any of these laws and regulations, the police will give you a ticket, which can be paid at any police station in Jamaica. Always address police respectfully and have all your papers ready to present.

What is the Speed Limit for Cars in Jamaica?

The speed limit for cars in Jamaica is as follows, unless otherwise indicated:

  • 110kph (68mph) on highways
  • 80kph (50mph) on open roads
  • 50kph (31mph) in villages and towns

Can You Turn Left on Red in Jamaica?

Yes, the ‘left turn red light’ rule applies in Jamaica and drivers are allowed to turn left on a red light. At a junction controlled by traffic lights, you may enter the filter arrow lane if there is a green arrow signal as long as you intend to turn in the direction shown by the arrow.

How Long Would It Take to Drive Around the Island of Jamaica?

Driving a full circle around the island of Jamaica would take a minimum of two days, although that is pushing it with not much time for pit stops. While the distance is only about 398 miles using the major roads, it nonetheless takes between 14 and 16 hours to complete.

Can You Drive Around Jamaica in a Day?

Not without falling asleep on the wheel! If you don’t stop for anything at all, yes, you can drive non-stop around Jamaica in about 16 hours. However, once you factor in the traffic, road conditions, pit stops, excursions and tours, you will need about 3 days to comfortably drive around and experience Jamaica.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Private Driver in Jamaica?

On average hiring a private driver in Jamaica costs US $180 per day. If you don’t drive – or prefer not to do so in Jamaica – but still wish to travel independently around the island, hiring a private driver is a great choice.

Is it Easy to Rent a Car in Jamaica?

Yes, renting a car in Jamaica is relatively easy. Here are some useful tips for renting a car in Jamaica:

  • Check to ensure that the car is up to scratch before you drive it off. For instance, it should have seatbelts in the back as well. Also check that the vehicle has enough oil, water, and is in good working condition.
  • Inspect the car before driving it off the lot. Carefully look it over and document every nick, scratch or dent. Take photos of any damage on the vehicle to avoid it being blamed on you when you return it.
  • Be sure to check all the documents before you leave the car rental agency, as out of date documents can cause difficulties later on with the police.
  • You will need a credit card to pay for your rental car in Jamaica.
  • While you do not need a passport to drive in Jamaica, it is recommended that you have a copy when renting a car.
  • Most rental cars in Jamaica are picked up at the airport, not delivered to your hotel. While some hotels have car rental desks, prices are generally higher than if bookings were made in advance. Car rental agencies are available at all airports and in all the major tourist hubs in Jamaica.
  • Most car rental companies in Jamaica offer unlimited mileage. If the agency you’re considering doesn’t, switch to one that does.

Can I Get Lost while Driving in Jamaica?

Not if you have a GPS or a good map on hand. Road signage in Jamaica isn’t the best in some parts. That’s why it is recommended that you use a GPS or a map for easier navigation, to help you find your way as you drive around the island.

The Jamaica Tourist Office offers a good map called “Discover Jamaica”, which contains a detailed overview of the whole island, as well as blowups of popular destinations such as Kingston, Montego Bay and Negril. Get it free of charge from your car rental agency or any Jamaica Tourist Board office.

Is it Safe to Drive in Jamaica when it Rains?

Yes, as long as you observe the following road safety tips:

  • In the event of wet road conditions, drivers in Jamaica should allow for at least 1-2 car lengths to the front.
  • Jamaica has many potholes and when it rains (which is often), the potholes fill up with water and can be dangerous. Because locals know which roads to use, reconsider your route if it’s raining and you’re the only one out in your car on an empty road.

Is it Safe to Drive in Jamaica with Valuables in the Car?

If you must drive with cash or valuables, be sure to observe these safety tips:

  • Always keep your car doors/ boot locked and windows up.
  • Keep all cash and valuables out of sight at all times.
  • Take extra care when stopping at junctions or for traffic lights as criminals often hang around these places to steal items from the backs of cars.

What Do I Do if My Car Breaks Down in Jamaica?

In case of a breakdown, immediately call your car rental agency for assistance.

If you notice something wrong with the car, try to find a safe place to pull over and get it fixed.

Always make sure you have enough fuel for your journey. There aren’t many filling stations in Jamaica, and you don’t want to be caught out at night. Moreover, fuel stations in Jamaica do not accept credit cards, therefore always carry cash.